You Only Live Twice (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"You Only Live Twice"
Side A of the US single
Single by Nancy Sinatra
from the album You Only Live Twice
Recorded1967 at the CTS Studios in London
Length2:55 (single version)
2:44 (soundtrack LP version)
3:28 (soundtrack LP end title version)
Producer(s)John Barry
Nancy Sinatra singles chronology
"You Only Live Twice"
"Lightning's Girl"
Audio sample
Single version

"You Only Live Twice", performed by Nancy Sinatra, is the theme song to the 1967 James Bond film of the same name. The music was by veteran Bond film composer John Barry, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. The song is widely recognized for its striking opening bars, featuring a simple 2-bar theme in the high octaves of the violins and lush harmonies from French horns. It is considered by some to be among the best James Bond theme songs,[1] and has become one of Nancy Sinatra's best known hits. Shortly after Barry's production, Sinatra's producer Lee Hazlewood released a more guitar-based single version.

The song has been covered by many artists including Coldplay, Soft Cell, Björk and Shirley Bassey. In 1998, Robbie Williams re-recorded portions of the song (including the opening strings) for use in his UK number-one single "Millennium".


Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s

James Bond veteran John Barry returned to the franchise to produce the score. The lyrics were by Leslie Bricusse, who had previously cowritten the lyrics for the theme to Goldfinger.

An initial version of the song was performed by Julie Rogers and recorded with a 50 or 60 piece orchestra at CTS Studios. However, this version was not used since Barry decided to re-write and re-record the song: "It was usually the producers that said 'this isn't working, there's a certain something that it needed'. If that energy wasn't there, if that mysterioso kind of thing wasn't there, then it wasn't going to work for the movie."[2] The Rogers song shares only two lines with the final version, "You only live twice", and "you’ll pay the price". Although there are many similarities in the harmony and orchestration with the final version, it is essentially a different song, with a less lush and more ethnic character.

The film's producer Cubby Broccoli, wanted his friend Frank Sinatra to perform the song. Frank suggested that they use his daughter instead. Barry wanted to use Aretha Franklin, but the producers insisted that he use Nancy instead, who was enjoying great popularity in the wake of her single, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'".[3]

The final version (2:44) featured in the film's opening title sequence and on the soundtrack LP is in the key of B and has a single vocal track. The song was recorded with a 60 piece orchestra on 2 May 1967 at the CTS Studios in Bayswater, London.[4] Sinatra later recalled that she was incredibly nervous during the recording, and it took around 30 takes to acquire enough material.[5] Producer John Barry eventually created the final version by incorporating vocals from 25 takes.[6] A longer mix (3:28) was used for the end titles, and incorporates different vocal takes in places.

In UK the soundtrack had been released, but while soundtracks such as Doctor Zhivago and Fiddler on the Roof hit the Top 20, You Only Live Twice was less successful. Nancy Sinatra's single version squeezed into the Top 20 for two weeks only. Barry also released an instrumental version but this failed to chart.

In Japan, the soundtrack was released in a gatefold with images from the film and a plot summary.[7]

Single version[edit]

As compared to the soundtrack versions, the single version was constructed from a different set of takes at about the same tempo, but with all instruments and vocals performed a full semitone sharper, in the key of C. It has double-tracked lead vocals, plus backing wordless vocals by an unnamed singer, and occasional backing vocals by Nancy herself. The iconic lead guitar harmony was replaced by a more subdued guitar at a lower pitch, playing throughout the song. This version also has rock drums gently playing throughout.

The vinyl single was only released in mono. A stereo mix was eventually released on the circa 1968 Japanese compilation LP Golden Nancy Sinatra and more widely in 1970 on Nancy's Greatest Hits LP. In 1986, a new stereo remix of the single version was released on the Nancy Sinatra compilation CD The Hit Years. As compared to the original stereo mix, this version has narrower stereo and centered vocals. It has appeared on many compilations since then.

Critical reception[edit]

Roy Wood described Barry's string introduction to his song "You Only Live Twice" as "absolute perfection". Mark Monahan of The Daily Telegraph described the lyrics as "mysterious, romantically carpe diem ... at once velvety, brittle and quite bewitching".[8] David Ehrlich of Rolling Stone ranked "You Only Live Twice" the third best James Bond theme song, calling it "a classic."[9]

Cover versions[edit]

The song is one of the most covered Bond themes.

In popular culture[edit]

The song was used in the closing montage of Mad Men's season five finale, "The Phantom".[1] It was used as entrance music for Japanese professional wrestler Osamu Nishimura in ECW.


Chart (1967) Peak
Australian ARIA Charts 10
Canadian Singles Chart 39
UK Singles Chart 11
US Billboard Hot 100 44
US Easy Listening 3

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rosen, Christopher (11 June 2012). "'Mad Men' 'You Only Live Twice': Season 5 Finale Closes With Bond Theme". The Huffington Post.
  2. ^ MI6-HQ Copyright 2011. "You Only Sing Twice - MI6 uncovers the twists and turns that the You Only Live Twice theme song took, from Julie Rogers to Nancy Sinatra :: MI6 :: You Only Live Twice (1967) :: James Bond 007". Retrieved 12 December 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Hastings, Rob (1 February 2011). "Tributes to John Barry, the man with the Midas touch for movie music". The Independent.
  4. ^ Jon Burlingame (November 2012). The Music Of James Bond. Oxford University Press. pp. 197–. ISBN 978-0-19-998676-7. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  5. ^ Jon Burlingame (November 2012). The Music Of James Bond. Oxford University Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-19-998676-7. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  6. ^ Jon Burlingame (November 2012). The Music Of James Bond. Oxford University Press. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-19-998676-7. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  7. ^ The Definitive Story of You Only Live Twice. Graham Thomas. Kindle.
  8. ^ Monahan, Mark (16 November 2006). "James Bond songs From Bassey and Barry to Bono and Tina". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  9. ^ Ehrlich, David (2 November 2015). "James Bond Movie Theme Songs, Ranked Worst to Best". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  10. ^ Burlingame, Jon The Music of James Bond Oxford University Press, 1 November 2012
  11. ^ "YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (On ne vit que deux fois) Alternate Opening by Little Anthony & The Imperials". YouTube. Retrieved 12 December 2013.[dead YouTube link]
  12. ^ "Abwärts – Abwärts". Discogs. 20 November 2023.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "All of the rumoured artists for the next James Bond theme song". Scala Radio. 15 October 2021.
  15. ^ "Nancy Sinatra, 'You Only Live Twice' (1967)". Rolling Stone. 5 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Imitations (Album)".
  17. ^ Paul Simpson (2002). The Rough Guide to James Bond. Rough Guides. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-84353-142-5. Retrieved 5 October 2012.